From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.
John Sedlock tells how the unmarked grave of a 27-year-old woman killed in 1910 and buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery touched the lives of her orphaned children some 15 years ago. The cemetery's sexton said Antonia Pawlisz died in a fire that destroyed her home on Billy Goat Hill, the name which was given years ago to the southeast Leavenworth area near Wilson Avenue and Limit. Her children were subsequently put up for adoption.
As adults they must have reunited, Sedlock speculates.
"They wrote to me and asked if she was buried here," he said. "Then they came to visit. The grave didn't have a marker, and when I led them over to where it was they just dropped to their knees and cried. They kissed the ground and called their mother's name. It was such a sad sight."
The children paid for their mother's grave to have a headstone and Mrs. Pawlisz's marker stands close to a large row of trees in the cemetery's older section.
"This is called the 'Old Singles Section' and some of the earliest ones are here. You can even find some written in German and Polish," he said.
The first burial took place in 1869. Andrew McCormack was just two years old when he died June 13, 1869 and his named is entered in the old cemetery records as No. 1. His headstone is near the south road leading out of the front of the cemetery at Eisenhower and DeSoto Road. This ground was first platted for a cemetery in 1870.
Operation of the cemetery was then the responsibility of local Catholic parishes and cemetery history indicates;
"It is the policy of the church authorities to keep prices of lots within reasonable limits. The lots vary in size and the prices are from $25 to $300 with single lots for burial ca be obtained for as small as $2. A liberal section of ground is set apart for the poor of parish, who are unable to provide means of burial for the burial of their dead."
At the time this was written, William Cogan was the sexton and lived in a home on the cemetery grounds. Sedlock said the home burned during World War II and was never rebuilt.
The cemetery today is under the direction of the Archdioscese of Kansas City in Kansas.
At about the time Mount Calvary opened in the early 1870s, Thorn Hill Cemetery was abandoned at 20th and Metropolitan. It had been an early burial site for Catholics in Leavenworth's early days and 160 graves were moved to the "newly opened cemetery for Roman Catholic burials." Sedlock says no restrictions are placed on burials today.
"We have about 70 burials a year out here and that averages to little more than one a week. My family is buried here and my parents have a nice spot under a large pine tree. I used to come here when I was young, but I was sacred to death to come back then," he recalled.
Sedlock was on the cemetery board back in the 1960s and says there was a need for a sexton. It just seemed a natural thing to accept the position in 1965. He's purchased most of the equipment for maintaining the cemetery himself over the years and takes pride in the care the cemetery is given.
"We still have penty[sic] of room here I'd say there's enough room to bury people out here for another 100 years."